20. ST. MARGARET’S part III

Sally and Maria were two classmates that sat right behind me in class and always seemed to be getting into trouble. Maria had snuck into class a small transistor radio that she was surreptitiously listening to with earplugs. “Who are you listening to?” whispered Sally across the aisle. “The Beatles!” Maria whispered back. “Ooh, let me hear”, Sally almost said out loud. “Shhh!” said someone behind them, as Sister Norbert was writing out an assignment on the blackboard. I had heard of Buddy Holly and the Crickets and loved the Rockabilly style of their music but nobody’d told me of the Beetles (sic).

I asked my brother William about them. He said he was already saving up for the Beatles first album. I started listening to the radio a bit more avidly. The two Rock and Roll channels, KJR AM (Their catchy jingle: Kay Jay Are, Seattle, Channel 95) and the slightly more progressive KOL 1300 were playing Beatles non-stop and I could sing along in no time. The first two songs that completely dominated the airwaves were “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and my better favorite: “I Saw Her Standing There”.

We began to emulate the tight pants, pointy-toed Cuban heeled shoes and long hair of our new heroes. Since there wasn’t a dress code in school for shoes the girls began wearing the white vinyl go-go boots seen on the dancers with American Bandstand, Shindig and Hullaballoo TV shows, to go along with their pleated plaid skirts and white blouses.

One of my better friends, Erik Bagsman, was a natural musician and could work out the chords on the piano in our classroom. He’d teach me some of the easier ones and we’d sing along to “Louie, Louie” or “The Witch” by local band The Sonics.

Even then you could tell that John, Paul, George and Ringo had been sanitized for commercial consumption but there rang such a genuinely original quality to the music that it was easy to overlook the packaging. When I heard them interviewed on radio I could tell from their irreverent and hilarious personalities that they were highly intelligent but also loved to fool around too. William started building up a collection of 45s and we’d carry them around to each other’s houses to play on the parent’s Hi-Fi.

Naturally, it wasn’t just the Beatles but the entire British Invasion that was making an impression on my school friends and me and I soon acquired a set of bongo drums to play along. When we began taking special religion classes in preparation for our sacrament of Confirmation we were directed to choose a name that signified our faith. I quickly decided on John, after my favorite Beatle. John seemed the smartest, wittiest and was the acknowledged leader, all the things I felt I was not.

When the Beatles came through Seattle, Aug. 21st 1964 I begged my parents to let me go. They said no and tried to placate me by buying a two-inch square of the yellow rug from the Edgewater Inn Room that the Beatles had stayed in while they were in Seattle that some enterprising entrepreneur had bought up. My folks weren’t unsympathetic to my desire however and so when the Rolling Stones came to Seattle on December 2, 1965 I was ready. My friend Fredrick’s sister Mary, had won a ticket for the concert from a radio show promotion. Since she already had a ticket that she had bought for herself she let me have the other one.

My first rock concert ever. Mick Jagger came out on a revolving stage and Brian Jones was playing his signature teardrop guitar. Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman and Keith Richards rounded out the rhythm section. They ran through their few hits and Mick was all over the stage. He grabbed a tambourine and went to the front corner of the stage where a burly policeman was shielding him from any fans that might rush the stage. During their smash hit “Satisfaction” Jagger made a point of repeatedly striking the tambourine right next to the cop’s ears to the delight of the crowd but to the disdain of the Seattle Coliseum Security. It wasn’t the last Rolling Stones concert I’d attend but it set me on a cultural path that would lead to music festivals around the country and an exploration of musical forms from beyond the English speaking world.